With the heat of the Arizona summer now in full swing, it is time to think about summer beer. Just as important is thinking about WHERE one might find relief from the sweltering temperatures. When the two of those come together in beer synchronicity, you have TOP TAPS for Summer 2018--our recommendations for the best places to grab a cold one NOW.
1. Barnstar Brewing, Skull Valley
Located about 20 minutes west of Prescott, Barnstar offers a unique drinking experience--a brewery (nearly) in the middle of nowhere. Owners David and Sandy Bigelow have set up shop in Skull Valley in the shadow of Granite Mountain and simply put, they invite you over to their house on weekends to drink beer and enjoy the view. It requires 4+ miles of dirt roads to get there, but it is so worth the effort. The draw here is leaving the heat and the insanity of city life behind, if only for a few hours, so it is an ideal day trip. No loud taprooms, with rock music blaring from in-house speakers; just beer in the barn. Pull up a seat on the porch, or sit at a picnic table in the yard. Either way, there's no better way to clear you head.
The Oatmeal Stout is recommended as well as the "Rich Zesty IPA" if it is on tap. Open 12n - 5p on Saturday and Sunday only.
2. Pinetop Brewing Company, Pinetop
The city of Pinetop has boomed the last few years and has become a summer vacation hotspot. No longer is it merely a winter jumping off point for the Sunrise ski area. If you are traveling up to the rim country, Pinetop Brewing provides an elevated beer experience in the White Mountains.
Most of their beers lean toward belgian-profiles but the Blonde and Saison serve to mix things up. If you can, visit mid-week when crowds are small and you can hear the wind whispering through the pine trees.
3. Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company, Gilbert
If you can't get to the high country, visit AZ Wilderness Brewing, where the high country comes to you. Not only does the decor remind you of a grand northern Arizona hunting lodge (stripped oak furnishings, beer flights served in cut off logs) but the beers are often brewed with local, wild ingredients.
AZ Wilderness currently has four different Saisons on tap, all brewed with various Arizona-sourced fruits and grains. Each is quite refreshing, perfect to take the edge of the summer heat. My favorite is the "Connection Saison."
The one downside to AZ Wilderness is the crowds. My last visit was on a Saturday and it was hard to get a seat inside. If you are there just for the beer, ask for the "Tasting Room."